Tell It to the Bees
Filmmaker Annabel Jankel may be best known for her work as co-director of the infamous so-bad-it’s-good cult movie Super Mario Bros, however her latest directorial endeavour with Tell It to the Bees (adapted from the novel of the same name by Fiona Shaw) shows little improvement has been made in the last 25 years in her ability to deliver a coherent and engaging narrative. Set in a small Scottish town in the 1950s, the film follows the budding – and taboo – relationship between a doctor (Anna Paquin) and a young mother (Holliday Grainger), whose son (Gregor Selkirk) develops an infatuation with the doctor’s beehives, confiding his deepest secrets to them. Full of over-sentimentality and flat performances, though, there’s little joy to be found here.
To be fair to Jankel, she does occasionally show a real flair for direction and cinematography, particularly whenever the bees are involved. Through capturing the creatures in mesmerising close-ups and as a collective swarm, she brings an an element of beauty to the film. Likewise, many of the establishing shots of rural Scotland show off the country’s natural beauty. This, unfortunately, is where the enjoyment ends.
Everything else about the movie, from its script to the performances, screams of the sort of hockey schlock one would expect from a made-for-TV movie shown on a Sunday afternoon – albeit one with a little more bite. The presentation is simply too overdramatic to be taken seriously, especially when the actors sound like they’re reading their lines through for the first time. Paquin and Grainger have both shown themselves to be outstanding performers in recent years, but here, like the rest of the cast, they come across as flat and lifeless.
Likewise, the narrative’s pacing is terribly uneven, the majority of which is spent delivering awkward exposition through clunky dialogue. It’s only at the climax when the various subplots begin to come together. However, even then the impact is undercut due to the implementation of shocking imagery that comes out of seemingly nowhere (almost to hilarious effect) and a resolution that is both ridiculous and underwhelming.
Tell It to the Bees makes a noble effort in relating what is supposed to be a provocative love story. With a better screenplay and more enthusiastic actors it could well have been one, but what we have is far from what was intended.
Tell It to the Bees is released nationwide on 7th June 2019.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.